September 30, 2008

After a year of working the meat and fish stations at French Laundry, Louis Maldonado, formerly a co-executive chef at Cortez, is returning to San Francisco to be the new executive chef at ~CAFÉ MAJESTIC~. I got a peek at his preliminary menu, and it contains unique starters like Italian chestnuts with feuille de brik, compressed endive, Fuyu persimmon, and Tahitian vanilla, or a fricassee of sweetbreads with potato mille-feuille, roasted romaine lettuce, and béarnaise mousseline. The shaved beef tongue with poached prunes, Brussels sprouts, pearl onions, and cedar gastrique also totally caught my eye. Mains include slow-cooked suzuki with Tokyo turnips and matsutake mushrooms in their bouillon, and confit of suckling pig with poached quince, glazed sunchokes, creamed mustard greens, and Niçoise olive jus. His menu launches October 13th, and you’ll also be able to order the full menu five days a week at the bar. Maldonado is excited to return to the city, and says, “It’s really time to show everyone what I’ve got.” After a year at the Laundry, I expect it’ll be delicious. Some congrats are also in order: Maldonado and his wife are expecting their first child in about three months. Welcome back. 1500 Sutter St. at Gough, 415-441-1100.

Another French Laundry-related note: congratulations to Timothy Hollingsworth, a sous chef at the Laundry, who won the gold medal over the weekend and will be representing the United States at the international ~BOCUSE D’OR~ competition in the beginning of the year. Read more on Pete Wells’s post in the Diner’s Journal.

Opening today in Cow Hollow is ~NETTIE'S CRAB SHACK~, moving into the former Palmetto space. To recap, Jim Zack of Zack/deVito turned out the new look, and the East Coast-meets-California fish shack menu includes BBQ oysters with a beer chaser ($15), steamers with drawn butter in a pail ($20), larger plates like grilled squid, shell beans, salsa verde ($15), non-fishy items like hangar steak ($18) and roasted chicken ($18), sides include jalapeno spoon bread with okra and tomatoes ($7), and there’s butterscotch pudding for dessert ($8). You can check out all the menus on the cute website. None of the wines on the list are over $50—how convenient during this crap economy. Lunch Mon–Fri 11:30am–2:30pm, dinner Sun–Thu 5pm–10pm, Fri–Sat 5pm–11pm, brunch Sat–Sun 10am–3pm. 2032 Union St. at Buchanan, 415-409-0300.

Over in the Mission, I was happy to learn ~ICHI CATERING~, the kind folks behind the tasty sushi at a number of bars and happy hours around town, are in final negotiations with the Monkey Club (formerly Syn Lounge) to open a satellite location there. ICHI’s Tim Archuleta, formerly of Tokyo Go Go, and his wife, Erin Archuleta, are looking to have a November 1st opening, and are putting together a preliminary menu that will include sushi and small plates. They’re planning to have dinner service run from Tuesday–Sunday 5pm–1am (which should please you industry and night owl folks), and are looking to add lunch service about a month after that, and then brunch a month later. The Monkey Club is planning to add sake and Japanese beer to their drink list to complement the menu. 2730 21st St. at Bryant, 415-647-6546.

I noted ~BUSHI-TEI~ has a beer and wine license for a new location, and thank you Eater for doing the research: Bushi-Tei is adding a spinoff in Japantown Center, and it’s due to open by the end of the year. Here’s more: “Unlike the formal Bushi-tei, it will be a more casual "bistro" but will keep the same general fusion theme with Chef Seiji Wakabayashi running both kitchens. The bistro will, however, try [to] encompass a greater range of Asian cuisine than its big sis.” 1581 Webster Street Ste. 100 at Post.

More Japanese news: I heard a rumor that ~TSUNAMI SUSHI~ was opening a second location in SoMa at 4th and Berry, but the Dajani Group has been pointedly ignoring my multiple emails about it. Annoying. So we only have a slight confirmation from a tipster on Eater that it is truly the case. Stand by.

Meanwhile, over in Noe Valley, the Noe Valley, SF blog has an update on the ~MYSTERIOUS “HIGH-END VIETNAMESE FUSION” RESTAURANT~ that is moving in the corner of Church and 25th. Here’s more from the post: “Word on the street is that its owned by the same people as Regent Thai, a Noe Valley hot spot, so it should prove exciting. We spoke to the contractor today and he said it should be open ‘by the end of the year.’ ” We’ll see how things develop. Church St. and 25th St.

It’s time to wake up and small the coffee! The new little ~PICCINO~ coffee bar is open! Folks can order their coffee at a window; hours are 7am–6pm. 801 22nd St. at Tennessee, 415-824-4224.

A few readers have been inquiring about ~ZINNIA~, the new restaurant from chef Sean O’Brien that’s opening in the former Scott Howard space. The target opening date is Wednesday October 22nd, and the OpenTable system will be online and start taking reservations this Friday October 3rd. 500 Jackson St. at Montgomery, 415-956-7300.

And now in the “we look like we’re closing but we aren’t” department, the folks at ~MCEVOY~ in the Ferry Building Marketplace wanted to clarify that their shop is currently under renovations and they are not leaving. They packed up all of our olive oil last week and moved out temporarily to make way for the plumbers, electricians, and builders. Gensler has designed a fresh, modern space for them, and the plan is to re-open around the third or fourth week in October. Marketplace Shop #16.

After a long vacation break, ~CAFE ZITOUNA~ is reopening this Friday October 3rd. They said there are just a few small adjustments to the menu, which will be posted online on Friday. 1201 Sutter St. at Polk, 415-673-2622.

~SOUTH FOOD + WINE BAR~
is no longer open for weekend brunch due to a host of issues, like their office building security, garbage pick up, blah blah blah. No more eggs + soldiers for you. 330 Townsend St., Ste. 101 at 4th St., 415-974-5599.

A reader was dismayed to read the ~OCTAVIA LOUNGE~ has closed and emailed me asking what’s going on. According to the website, “The Octavia Lounge will close for an unspecified amount of time for remodeling. We would like to thank all our employees, guests and performers who made Octavia Lounge a fun place for good food and great entertainment.” Boozehounds: bottomless mimosas can be continued at Lime on the weekends. 1772 Market St. at Octavia.

Bwok! It’s time for more magic from the fryer at ~SPQR~: you’ll now find fried chicken on the menu every Tuesday night. Which means you can go tonight! It’s a large half chicken (Rocky Free Range) for $20, large enough for two to share. 1911 Fillmore St. at Bush, 415-771-7779.

Fall is here, and ~AQUA~ is running a special mushroom menu through the month of October, the second in their series of seasonal tasting menus. The menu is nine courses, highlighting a slew of mushrooms: hon-shimeji, oyster, black trumpet, matsutake, porcini, chanterelle/yellow foot, lobster, cinnamon cap, and black truffles. The featured mushrooms are hand harvested on or near Mount Shasta. You can see the entire menu here. It’s $150, and there’s an $85 wine pairing available. 252 California St. at Battery, 415-956-9662.

Here’s an all-you-can-consume special that is a one-way ticket to some Tums: every Tuesday from 6pm–9:30pm, ~THICK AND THIN PIZZA~ is serving all-you-can-eat thin-crust pizza (but the deal doesn’t apply to their also-delish Chicago-style deep dish). In addition, every bottle of wine is marked 50% off. The only stipulation is that you must sit in the dining room—no parking at the bar. Once you’re done eating half your body weight in pizza, you will be well prepped to hang out for the new "Double Vision" party that’s every Tuesday from 9pm until close, when all well drinks are two–for-one, and DJ (“a p-word that rhymes with corn”)-star spins double shots on the decks. Hic. 3600 16th St. at Market, 415-431-0306.

I wanted to help spread the word that ~TYSON FOODS WILL DONATE~ 100 pounds of high-quality protein (up to a total of 200,000 pounds) to the six Bay Area food banks for every brief comment left on the site they set up to help with this cause. You don't have to say more than a couple of words, and they promise not to send you anything or share your contact info. Just scroll to the bottom, say thanks, and voila. Please swing by.

And now, a sweets report. Over in Ghirardelli Square, ~CROWN & CRUMPET~ has opened, serving a continental brekkie (with croissants and the like from Patisserie Philippe), a light luncheon, British tea in the afternoon (get that pinkie raised), and early evening bites and drinkie-poos, like Champagne, sherries, ports, and madeiras. Just think, a melee of house-made scones, finger sandwiches, and clotted cream are all saying yoooooo hoooooo! And for the record, the crumpets are from Tea and Crumpets in San Rafael. Teas are from Lupicia, Harney and Sons, Tea Palace from London, Palais du Thé from Paris, and Lindsay’s Teas, among others. I also read it’s a “doily-free zone,” and their in-house pastry chef, Caroline Romanski, has quite the Bay Area pedigree. Winter hours are Sun–Thu 8am–6pm, and until 9pm Fri–Sat. 900 North Point St., West Plaza of Ghirardelli Square, 415-771-4252.

Downtown cupcakers are not happy that ~CITIZEN CUPCAKE~ has closed in the Virgin Megastore. A new location might be in the works, but in the meantime, you can get your Citizen Cupcake faves at the Citizen Cake Kiosk at Orson at 508 4th St., or at the Citizen Cake Patisserie at 399 Grove St.

Another closure: a tablehopper reader tipped me off that ~BELGANO CHOCOLATIER GELATERIA~ in Noe Valley has closed. The number is disconnected, so I wasn’t able to learn more about the reasons behind the closure. 3901 24th St. at Noe.

Northern California just got its first ~SPRINKLES CUPCAKES~: you’ll find it in Palo Alto’s Stanford Shopping Center. Oprah reportedly digs ‘em, hence the long lines of ladies since they opened. Flavors include traditional numbers like dark chocolate and red velvet, and new-style flavors include chai latte, ginger lemon, and banana dark chocolate, 20 flavors in all. The cupcakes contain no preservatives, trans fats, or artificial flavors. 393 Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto, 650-323-9300.

Okay, let’s allow that sugar rush to subside. The new location of the ~BALBOA CAFÉ~ in Mill Valley is open. Here are some pics from the Bunrabs, who went to check it out for lunch. The restaurant is following a traditional American bistro format, with the infamous Balboa Burger on the menu, and of course a notable PlumpJack wine program. The room has dark walnut and brass fixtures, with earthy green and natural tones, plus outdoor seating. The restaurant is also dog and kid friendly, and how convenient, Sweetwater Saloon is opening right next door. Hours are lunch Mon–Fri 11:30am–3pm, and dinner nightly starting at 5pm. 38 Miller Ave. at East Blithedale, Mill Valley, 415-381-7321.

This Friday October 3rd is the 12th annual ~ART FOR AIDS AUCTION 2008~. Support the UCSF AIDS Health Project by joining 500 art patrons at a juried live and silent auction of more than 125 modern and contemporary works of art from well-known and emerging artists, including Jock Sturges, Rex Ray, and Deborah Oropallo. Gourmet food, wine, and spirits will be donated by local restaurants and wineries, including Bocadillos, Ducca, Fleur de Lys, Garibaldi’s, Home, Mexico D.F., Spruce, Tommy Toy’s Cuisine Chinoise, Town Hall, and Yank Sing. Wine is provided by Folio Fine Wine Partners, including Donnafugata, Hangtime, Isabel Mondavi, Oberon Napa Valley, Villa Sandi, and Ketel One Vodka. 5:30pm–9pm. $75. The event is in the Herbst International Exhibition Hall (HIEH), Building #385 on Moraga Street at the top of the Presidio’s historic Main Post Parade Ground in the Presidio, 415-502-7276.

Whatcha doing this Saturday October 4th? If you have two wheels and a penchant for cheese, I’d say this should be it: ~TOUR DE FROMAGE~ will be a group of two-wheeled cheese appreciators riding around town to sample some of the city's top fromage specialists. You’ll finish up with a cheese-sharing picnic at a nearby park. Don't forget to bring cash for cheesy purchases from local vendors. Meet at the Duboce Bike mural, near Church and Duboce at 11am. The event will last until 2pm. For more info, email robin [at] biteback [dot] com. Get mooooooving. (Haha, sorry.)

This coming Sunday October 5th, you can watch local chef ~JONNATAN LEIVA~ of Jack Falstaff battle it out on Food Network Challenge: Next Great Chef. The show airs at 8pm! Here’s more from the site about the show: “Four young chefs on the verge of culinary greatness vie for the title of "The Next Great Chef." The chef who can deliver the complete package of creativity, ambition, and technique will win $10,000 and a career-making title.” Take no prisoners, Jonnatan!

Loco for Spanish cuisine? The AIWF (American Institute of Wine and Food) is hosting a special meal with The Spanish Table at Zarzuela on Monday October 13th: ~THE CATALAN CAPER SPANISH WINE DINNER~, with recipes inspired by The Spanish Table Cookbook by Steve Winston. The six-course menu will be teamed up with nine wines selected by Andy and Tanya Booth, owners of the Spanish Table. You can check out the menu here. The price is $100, all-inclusive. Since this is part of the AIWF’s membership drive, they are offering this special dinner at Member Rate for all attendees. For those signing up for a 12-month AIWF membership that evening, you will receive a $10 discount per person (single rate normally $75, now $65; dual members normally $125, now $105; under 35 years old normally $25, now $15). For current members they will provide the same discounts: if you renew your membership this evening, the AIWF will extend your current membership by an additional 12 months. The final bonus: AIWF is a non-profit organization, so your membership fee is tax deductible! Order tickets online here. 6:30pm. Zarzuela, 2000 Hyde St. at Union.

Is your copy of Moosewood Cookbook a favorite? Then you’ll want to know about this lunch with ~MOLLIE KATZEN~ at Greens on Friday October 17th. The JCCSF will celebrate Mollie Katzen and her latest book of vegetable recipes with a special luncheon. Tickets are $55 members/$65 public. Order tickets here, or call the box office at 415-292-1233. Noon. Fort Mason, Building A.